Composers / Witold Lutosławski / Places catalog

Stockholm

In 1964, Swedish Radio (Sveriges Radio) commissioned from Witold Lutosławski a string quartet. It was to be performed for the tenth anniversary of the Nutida Musik concert series devoted to new music, the following year. That commission gave rise to Lutosławski’s most important chamber work. It was first heard at the Moderne Museet in Stockholm on 12 March 1965, performed by the American LaSalle Quartet. One of the most valuable exhibits at the museum was Alexander Calder’s mobile The Four Elements, and by a curious coincidence Lutosławski called the successive parts of his quartet, played by independent instruments, ‘mobiles’, although he never wished to admit to any connection with Calder.

Between 22 and 28 November 1987, six concerts of Lutosławski’s music were given in Stockholm. He conducted two of them himself. The programme of that week comprised minor pieces, early works (the children’s songs) and large-scale compositions, including his latest work Chain III. The concerts were accompanied by an exhibition devoted to Lutosławski, held at the philharmonic, and a Lutosławski lecture on his music.

Lutosławski first made contact with the Royal Academy of Music during the sixties. He was invited there many times to give lectures, for the first time in March 1964. In 1992, at an initiative from the academy, he became a laureate of the Polar Music Prize (Polarpriset). The prize, to the tune of one million Swedish crowns, was funded by Stig Anderson, manager of the pop group ABBA. The first winner, in 1991, had been Paul McCartney. From the following year, two musicians were rewarded: one from the realm of lighter music, the other from the classical world. And the first ‘Classic’ was Lutosławski. The award ceremony, in the presence of the king of Sweden, took place on 18 May, on the day of St Eric, the patron saint of Stockholm. It was held during a concert consisting mainly of folk music and popular songs. One classical work was also performed: Peter Jablonsky played the Variations on a theme of Paganini in the version for piano and orchestra, which was mistitled in the programme Rhapsody.

It was in Stockholm that the first book about Lutosławski published outside Poland was issued. Its author was Ove Nordvall, the publisher Wilhelm Hansen, and it came out in 1968 in an English translation and only the following year in Swedish (Witold Lutosławski och hans musik). A couple of years later, Nordvall had a son. When the boy had grown up a bit, he began to learn the trumpet. Friendly with many composers, Nordvall asked several of them to compose a short piece for his son. In July 1984, Lutosławski wrote for the then eleven-year-old trumpeter a miniature that a few years later was published as Tune for Martin.

At the beginning of April 1992, Lutosławski was staying in Stockholm when he unexpectedly met Esa-Pekka Salonen, who from that season had been conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. ‘After the concert, there was a supper, which I went to – recalled Salonen. – In the middle of the meal, Witold said that he would like to ask me about something in connection with the fact that during the year ahead he was to be conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra […]. He asked: “Would you be very upset if I altered the programme?” “Of course not – I replied – but why would you want to change the programme?” “Well, I’ve finished that new symphony and I would like to present it to you”. And I very nearly fell off my chair. I was incredibly excited and immediately ran to the telephone – that was in the days before cell phones. I called Ernest Fleischman, who was then managing director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and I shouted: “Ernest, can you prepare a contract and all the necessary paperwork? Because Witold has got that new symphony and wants the first performance to be given in Los Angeles”. […] I returned to the table and said: “Done”. And Witold appeared most amused at the state of my nerves’.

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